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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: March 2008

9 - Theatre and controversy, 1572–1603

The sixteenth century was a time of great change. Professional theatre companies flourished and a remarkable variety of performance genres and styles came into being, producing great and memorable playscripts that have come to dominate the classical repertory of English-language theatre. Not surprisingly, attacks on theatre's very existence were particularly intense and vitriolic during its first years as part of the professional London entertainment industry. Outbreaks of plague closed the theatres, most notably during 1592-94. Underlying much theatrical debate is the larger social controversy which historians such as Patrick Collinson dub 'iconophobia', the Reformation fear of the power of images. The vitriolic exchange began with an attack on episcopal corruption within the Church of England by Martin, most likely the pseudonym for a number of puritan sympathisers. Earlier attempts to destroy theatre having failed, these puritans appear to have enjoyed some of the Queen's Men's performances and decided to use the players' satiric techniques.
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The Cambridge History of British Theatre
  • Online ISBN: 9781139054058
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